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The Collaborative Divorce Process: A Six-Legged-Race

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The Collaborative Divorce Process: A Six-Legged-Race

Clients want a divorce to be as efficient and effective as is possible. Of course we want this in most things we do.  Clients also want to protect their children as much as possible from the effects of divorce.  The Collaborate divorce process is a newer alternative dispute resolution process that incorporates a multidisciplinary team of professionals to address the emotional, legal and financial aspects of a divorce.  The hallmarks of a Collaborative process is that it is child-focused, a transparent process, and includes a disqualification clause that “commits” the professionals to helping the clients in this process alone, such that if the process was to break down and the clients opted to pursue legal actions in court, they could not use the professionals that were a part of the Collaborative process.  The power of the disqualification clause is the level to which the professionals engage in creative problems solving strategies that are collaborative in nature and use an interest-based approach to resolve all matters within the process.  

In Collaborative Divorce the professionals are working as a team to help clients through the process.  Some of the qualities that make a good team is: the willingness to work together; a high level of mutual respect, trust and rapport; an interest to learn from each other and support one another’s role; a high level of “psychological safety” within the team in order to be comfortable and willing to address issues without fear of persecution or concern that you will offend  your teammates and in order to be able to ask questions and express concerns. 

When I talk to prospective clients about the Collaborative Process, I often refer to the analogy of the three-legged-race.  If haven’t heard or participated in one, let me explain.  Two people are paired up and one leg from each partner is tied together when standing side by side.  The race is comprised of many couples working together with their legs tied.  As the race begins the couples that are best able to sync up with their tied legs, win.  How do they sync up?  With verbal and/or non-verbal communication.  They either overtly or covertly synchronize their shared leg in order to get the most effective cadence and tempo to get to the finish line.  This experience is exactly what participating in a Collaborative divorce process feels like.  But I like to call it more of a “six—or-seven-legged-race if you consider all the team members that have to synch up :)”  The most efficient way we get to resolve and complete the process is through synchronicity.  The clients have to either slow down or speed up, consider each other’s needs and interests adequately in order to better synchronize and meet each other in the ‘middle.’  Likewise the professionals have to get on the same page with issues and needs of the family in order to make it all work well.  There is a high-level of communication and cooperation that occurs in the service of helping a family transition to two homes.  

The Collaborative process is dynamic, comprehensive, supportive and the most efficient way to effectively address all the needs of a family in transition. Research shows that the outcome of Collaborative Divorce agreements have the least amount of post-judgement disputes which is a testament to the high degree of mutual satisfaction in the agreements made and to the efficacy of the process.  As a professional who is invested in protecting families from unneccesary conflict and emotional injuries, it is very rewarding to be a part of a better way to help spouses separate and divorce.

By Tammy Berman, LMHC, NCC Tammy Berman, LMHC, NBCC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, National Board Certified Counselor, Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, Qualified Parenting Coordinator and an Accredited Collaborative Professional. She is the current President of the Collaborative Family Law Professionals of South Florida, a co-chair of the 17th Circuit Collaborative ProBono Project and Outreach committee of that group. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals and serves on several of their committees. Tammy is highly invested in promoting and supporting the growth and access of the Collaborative Process to the professional and public community and specializes in helping people through the divorce process.

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